Being excited about an upcoming football season is nothing new for any college athlete, especially two who are expected to be team leaders in the fall.
But if you listen to UL senior safety Deuce Wallace or senior wide receiver Jarrod “Bam” Jackson, it’s more than the normal optimism going into a new season.
Every time the subject of UL’s quarterback position for the 2019 season comes up, I hesitate.
As the Ragin’ Cajuns prepare to report for August drills on Thursday, there’s no convincing Wallace and Jackson that something special isn’t about to happen.
“We’re going to hit the conference with something they think they’re ready for, but we’ve got a whole lot more to give them,” Jackson proclaimed.
The bulk of the elation both UL team leaders are feeling is based on it being year two in coach Billy Napier’s system.
“Yes, it was exciting last year, because it was a new system, new staff - such great coaches and great people around us, great culture – but we were learning throughout the season,” Wallace said. “Everything was all new from technique or schematically. But this year, everything is a refresher. We’re just reviewing. We have a lot of good reps and we’ve got it on film, so we can watch it and study that to execute properly this year.”
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Wallace is a former walk-on who earned a scholarship last season and now is the senior leader of the secondary. He had shoulder surgery in the spring, missing the spring game, which should elevate his coach-on-the-field game this fall.
“I feel so good,” Wallace said. “I feel so much healthier. I’m so excited to get back to football, but the injury allowed me to really focus on what was going on and see it from the outside. I haven’t gotten this much film study done in I don’t know how long.”
Wallace is also encouraged by the huge spike in talent in the secondary in year two.
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“We simply have guys who can flat out play (in secondary),” he said. “That’s no secret. We have guys who can play at every position on the back end. It’s really exciting, because we haven’t always been like that.”
Consequently, there will be more competition for playing time, which could create chemistry issues.
“I don’t think that’s going to be an issue for us, because our defense is already set up for multiple guys to play,” Wallace said. “In terms of promote-demote, I try to stress to my guys that you have to stay out of your feelings. It’s nothing personal. We’re trying to win the conference. We’re trying to host the conference championship and go to the New Orleans Bowl. If you get mad about that or throw a fit about that, then you probably don’t belong there in the first place. That’s selfish and I’m not putting up with that.”
On the offensive side, the additional talent has Jackson beaming as well.
For the fourth straight season, the Appalachian State Mountaineers were picked to win the Sun Belt Conference crown.
“Sometimes I’ll lay down in the bed and I’ll think about all the plays we’re going to make on offense … all the plays I could make, all the blocks I could make, all the catches I could make, all the reads Levi (Lewis) is going to make … just everything from the top down,” Jackson said. “Last year, we were kind of limited, because it was our first year.
The playbook is starting to expand a little more for us.”
Once again this season, UL’s offense figures to be carried by its dynamic rushing attack – led by Trey Ragas, Elijah Mitchell and Raymond Calais – running behind a seasoned offensive line.
But that running game should have more company this fall.
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“We have that three-headed monster in the backfield, but you can’t just key on them now, because the receivers and the tight ends are starting to emerge,” Jackson said. “It’s going to get to the point where they’re (opposing) going to have to pick their poison.”